Is it time for Kyle Eckel to come clean?
Yesterday at Super Bowl Media Day, CBSSports.com columnist Gregg Doyel caught up with the New Orleans Saints fullback and former Naval Academy star. Doyel asked Eckel the obvious question: Why aren’t you still in the Navy?
Eckel, of course, was kicked out of the Navy in 2006 after less than two years on active duty. The Navy wouldn’t tell us why back then, and Doyel had no luck getting info from them either. When previously interviewed, Eckel himself has never offered any real insight into the issue.
Here’s what Eckel had to say to Doyel yesterday:
Again, I asked. It happened Tuesday when I got him alone at Super Bowl Media Day.
“No,” Eckel said — politely — when I asked him to tell me about his exit from the Navy. “No?” I said back to Eckel. “That’s it? ‘No’?”
“Right,” he told me — polite as can be. “No.”
The closest a reporter has come to getting to the bottom of Eckel’s record might be the Boston Globe’s Bob Hohler in his 2007 piece “Troubled Waters.” In it, Hohler outlines the trouble Eckel came across during his days at the Academy and after he graduated.
Judging by the comments on this blog and Doyel’s column, certain active-duty and former service members clearly loathe Eckel. Some folks don’t think this blog should even mention his NFL accomplishments, and a lot of folks aren’t happy to see him having a good time as a radio intern and playing in another Super Bowl.
It’s not hard to understand where this animosity comes from. Eckel got kicked out of the Navy for reasons unknown, and he managed to parlay that into a far more lucrative and safer life. In his first full season he went to the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots. So far he’s managed to get jobs with three successful franchises — New England, Philadelphia and New Orleans — and plenty of nice paychecks. Now he’s managed to do what many star NFL players never do: Take the field for his second Super Bowl.
A lot of service members have to wonder: Where’s the justice in this? Two years ago, the Defense Department ruled that West Point graduate Caleb Campbell could not play for the Detroit Lions after he was drafted in the seventh round. Yet, Eckel gets to play in the Super Bowl because he got booted out of the Navy.
Eckel apparently did something serious enough to get kicked out of the Navy, yet by doing so the Navy put him in perfect position to follow his desire to play in the NFL. The only obvious punishment for Eckel was that he had to pay back his tuition — a significant sanction for sure, but not the end of the world for a guy who’s stuck around in the NFL for four seasons where the league minimum salary for a fourth year player is $510,000.
So let us know: Do you think Eckel should reveal why he’s no longer in the Navy? Or is it between him and the Navy, and none of our business?
Eckel is an embarrassment. Every now and then, a dirtbag manages to graduate from USNA–someone who doesn’t care about the mission or his classmates. It doesn’t matter how many Super Bowls rings he has, or how much money they pay him because it can’t buy his honor back.
I am not that up in arms about it. Seriously. Let leave him alone. We have plenty of military members not really participating on active duty and instead training for the olympics, sailing the world cup, and playing Navy sports. If the Navy had worked with him and allowed him to play in the NFL while fullfilling some sort of reserve duty then we could have had some great press. Like David Robison – “The Admiral.” I know there are some issues with Eckel’s past and he may of not made the best “poster” but we let people out of their military obligations all the time. This reminds me of two former USNA football – NFL connections. First, poor Chris McCoy back in 1999 who was drafted by the Packers (I think it was the Packers) but could not get out of his contract. I think it’s a waste of tallent and destroys wat could be a great PR piece for the Navy. Second, Milke Whale who got kicked out his senior year from USNA for steroids and went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL. So do we want a system where prospective pro athletes have to commit misconduct to pursue their careers?
First of all, the Navy did not live up to it’s commitment to Eckel. He could have left the academy at any point before accepting his commission, albeit with a substantial payback of tuition. Instead, he stuck around due to a promise by the Navy that he could play in the NFL while on active duty. The Navy renigged on it’s promise and then separated Eckel on trumped up charges.
Second of all, anyone who tries to denigrate Eckel’s character does so out of envy. The Navy had a great opportunity to capitalize off of some great publicity, but instead folded to the demands of USNA alumni that don’t have enough talent to succeed outside of the Navy.